Hi! I'm new and have LOTS of questions! ;)

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by cmkolb2, Oct 12, 2015.

  1. cmkolb2

    cmkolb2 New Egg

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    Hi all! I'm new here, so of course, I have lots of questions! We're in Northern Illinois, and are looking forward to receiving our first 8 ducklings at the beginning of November. Yay!

    Here's what's puzzling me at the moment: Our property is large, so I'd like to take advantage of this and free range the ducks, but is that feasible? We have coyotes, muskrats, raccoons, hawks... You name it we have it. If we have the ducks secure at night, will they be ok to free range during the day, most likely? Or do we need to keep them secure pretty much all the time?

    If so, that leads to my next question. We have a small pond (maybe half acre?). will the ducks destroy it with all the poop? Is there a way we can let them on the pond and not have a disaster on our hands? And if NO... How on earth should we try to keep them off?! [​IMG] we have plenty of space, so if need be, we could build a secure pen with a pond of their own.... But that would obviously just take a bit more doing.

    Thanks in advance for your help, and I promise I will try not to flood you all with my silly questions. I'm just super excited to get our duckies!
     
  2. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Flood away, and welcome! @cmkolb2

    Eight ducklings, early November, northern Illinois. Please catch me up on your plans for the winter.

    Meanwhile, I'll share my thoughts. I am a helicopter duck mom. Just so you know.

    We have 0.8 acres, about half of which is wooded. The ducks have their "barn" in our walkout basement. They have a day pen in the front yard. In the morning, we let them out of their night pen, or barn, and take them for a little walk, usually through the woods on our place. We then walk them to an enclosed garden area adjacent to the day pen. If I have the time, I'll putter around the yard while they're in their garden area (this is the duck garden - grape vines, kiwi, vinca, hazelnut bushes. No annuals.). If not, I'll close them into the day pen. It is covered in fence, top, bottom and sides, has two concrete mixing pans on pea gravel, and a nice mulchy-composty bedding in the rest of the pen. Actually I have the pen split because we run two flocks, so the Buffs have their own day pen, with one concrete mixing pan on gravel, etc.

    When I am not around, they are in the day pen. Because our daylight predators include hawks, cats, dogs, and from others' experience, even foxes and coyotes. At night, we can expect owls, fishers, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, dogs, cats.

    So in the evening, we walk them back into their night pen. The basement pen doesn't work for most people, but it really has some advantages for me. I don't have to shovel three feet of snow to feed the ducks or check on them, I can hear if there is a big problem, I can easily top up their food and water if I need to delay getting them outside, and I have a large enough space in our unheated walkout basement that remains above 40F that when we have a solid week of well-below-freezing weather in winter, or a really stormy day, they have plenty of room to move around and avoid getting stir-crazy.

    Water management is key. Once you figure out how to keep the bedding mostly dry, life just seems so much better.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
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  3. elly21

    elly21 Out Of The Brooder

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    Just be sure there are no snapping turtles in your pond before letting them out there!
     
  4. nyrunner

    nyrunner Out Of The Brooder

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    In all likelihood they will probably destroy that pond with all of their poop. And as far as letting them free range you can do that but you will at one time or another loose a duck to a predator. I'm around my ducks for the most part so I can kinda keep an eye on them so I don't worry as much. But in my opinion a duck is probably a lot happier outside a pen so I think it's worth it to let them free range
     
  5. cmkolb2

    cmkolb2 New Egg

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    Thank you for your reply, it helps SO much to hear about what others do! I wish we had a basement like you do, where that setup would work... sounds so convenient! So here is the plan for the winter so far (Feel free to critique! I'll take all the insight/help we can get!) The ducks are arriving on November 3 or 4, so for the first few weeks they'll be in the basement in a brooder. Once they grow out of that space, they'll move to the barn for a while (with a heat lamp) until they're ready to go out to their house and run. At what age, in general, is it safe to have ducks outside in the winter? I haven't been able to find any definitive answers in my searches.
     
  6. cmkolb2

    cmkolb2 New Egg

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    No snapping turtles, just lots of frogs and maybe a muskrat... if my dad hasn't managed to shoot it before then. ;)
     
  7. cmkolb2

    cmkolb2 New Egg

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    That was my thought re: the pond. Would stocking it with fish help anything or no? At any rate, I think we will try to build them their own little pool/pond instead, instead of risking destroying the pond. Re: free-ranging, I'm thinking my best bet is keeping them secure when we're not nearby, but luckily, someone will be around often so they can free range "supervised". ;)
     
  8. elly21

    elly21 Out Of The Brooder

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    You want to wait until they are fully feathered before keeping them out in the cold, generally around 9 weeks of age. As far as the pond..... if you decide not to let them out to the pond you can use a kiddie pool. We put ours up on a raised pallet and installed a drain and some piping. A hose is connected to the piping and the water gets drained away from the area. Draining it by buckets was tiresome! If you click on the link below you can check out our pool.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/g/i/7091813/a/7082659/duck-pond-pool-pictures/sort/display_order/
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Did I miss which breed you will have?

    Regarding what age for them to be out, I rather think of it in terms of how developed they are. It takes about seven months for ducks to be full grown, give or take. By about 3 or 4 months they may be around 95% of their adult size, but their internals are not done yet. Nor have they filled out completely - not for some breeds. Also much of what you'll find for information is based on a spring hatch, not late fall.

    Watch them - they will show if they are too cold. They'll walk stiff-legged, or not walk much at all because they are keeping their legs up in the feathers of their belly. They may shiver, have their feathers fluffed out, have a glazed look. I know this because some of my Runners are not cold hardy. A big difference was that four days after I got them into a night shelter that was above 40F (instead of around 32F as they had been for a week or two), they started laying eggs again, and running around happily, and playing again.

    Each duck, each flock is unique. Only you can see if they are thriving or not. And I would rather have thriving that just surviving. I am sure you are going to do well.
     
  10. LittleLakePhil

    LittleLakePhil True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    Where I live we have all those predators and more.....Wolves, bobcats ,cougars badgers and other various weasels and eagles ....etc. My ducks run free all day long they stay real close to home. They sometimes wander the neighborhood a little because the neighbors give them treats. But mostly they stick close to home. I have Khaki Campbells because I have them for eggs so other breeds may be different. At night they walk themselves to their pen and I just have to go out and lock them up for the night. To be honest I lost three ducks in August but it was to a stray dog the owner paid me but they are pets so money couldn't really replace them. I really think because I live very much in the woods in upper Michigan that you may have more to worry about domesticated animals than wild predators. biggest thing I think is having a safe place for them to go at night. Most of the dogs in the neighborhood get along just fine with the ducks. Its just the one and her owner has been warned she won't do it again. Ducks are a blast hope you find yours as much fun as I do.
     

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